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“I remember it hitting me hard”Founder Dan Nabben discusses the genesis of Jeju Furey
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승인 2013.03.20  09:16:23
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Furey founder Dan Nabben. Photo by Andrea Bluteau

In part two [part one is here] of our interview with Dan Nabben, the Furey founder speaks more about the creation of the Foundation and how it can foster understanding between communities.

What was Nathan Furey, whose death led to the creation of the Furey Foundation, like?
He was the kind of guy that didn’t have any enemies. People who didn’t know him wouldn’t hear of any reason to dislike him; people who knew him a bit, liked him; and people who knew him really well really liked him.

Lifestyle-wise he had the whole package: the wife, the two kids, the house, the job, the car, the motorcycle, the friends, the hobbies, good health. So when he got sick, the doctors were looking at aspects of his lifestyle that may have led to his condition, but there just weren’t any…It all happened so fast. One day he was sick, six days later it was all over.

[Dan goes on to explain the events surrounding Nathan’s sudden illness, including how he had seemed in perfect health. The morning before his hospitalization he had cycled 10 kilometers to frisbee practice and then returned home to entertain some friends in the evening. By late-afternoon he was clearly quite ill and retired to bed. This led to a series of incidents which changed the lives of those close to Nathan, forever. Six days later, after friends rallied round to support Nathan and his family, he tragically passed away. Dan had been at the center of events, contacting Furey family members in Canada and relaying news to the foreign community on Jeju.]

Nathan Furey and wife Hyojeong in 2007. Photo courtesy Dan Nabbben

How did you become the fulcrum of the fundraising efforts?
Being ‘the guy’ who sent out the first update, I became the guy who was being asked for more news, so I kept visiting the hospital and kept sending out updates and I’d get offers to help.

When it became clear that, best-case scenario, the hospital bills alone would be costly, we knew exactly what needed to be done...I remember being at home, and sitting and pacing and I was thinking, “Okay, who’s going to take the initiative and lead this thing?”

Then it hit me hard: If Nathan were to die, a number of things will be lost to those kids forever, including a lifetime of income, gone. That’s a huge change in lifestyle and potential for the kids. And it was about time I did something good and for someone else, so, the way I saw things, everyone had a role to play. We all wanted to console the family and help, but that’s a job for the best friends. Myself and the rest of the secondary friends had a different role.

Anj Schroder and Jessie Dishaw were heavily involved in those first months, too. But I spoke Korean, was in constant contact with the family, set up the account, and kept getting lots of offers of help, so I became the head de facto.

Where do you want to take Furey next?
That’s a tough question because you said ‘want’. When you talk about the future, ‘want’ so quickly becomes ‘dream’. I just want it to reach its full potential whatever that may be. If people from China, Japan, Guam, and the mainland are willing to fly to Jeju for the Frisbee tournament, then there must be like-minded volleyball players out there, too. We know there are. And the bigger it gets the more people we can help.

What I don’t want is for it to ever become non-altruistic. That is to say, if the organization comes to a point where it no longer raises all that much money for the poor, or no longer reaches out to all members of Korea’s communities, or Asia’s or maybe beyond, there’d be a serious problem.

Does Furey project a positive image of the international community?
Absolutely! Having lived in Jeju for a few years before Jeju Furey, I can say that as a result of many foreigners enjoying Jeju so much, they had this desire to give back – but there wasn’t really any fun way to do it. Jeju Furey provided that - albeit not by design. And I know, from talking to many people (Koreans, too) that foreigners had a reputation for being heavy ‘takers’ but light ‘givers’, so Jeju Furey acts as a counterweight. That is not to say that everything that happens at the events is spic ‘n span, but for the vast majority of those involved and affected, I’d say it’s a positive thing.

It’s also a good way to project an image because it reaches out to so many, and gets people active, participating, and actually doing stuff. Jeju Furey events ask for much more [than money]. We ask for significant commitments in time and for good, responsible behaviour – and the people deliver.

Do the events promote integration between communities?
Sure, so long as integration means ‘sharing in experiences’ instead of, foreigners coming in and imposing their values on Koreans. Integration ought to be more like a blue thread being knitted into a grey sweater to give it a trim. The sweater isn’t compromised, but there’s a nice added touch.

I’ve seen it happen a few times where a foreigner spends a lot of quality time with Koreans outside the workplace, without the buffer of having other foreigners around, and they always have a much richer experience and better understanding.

Koreans still have a lot of misconceptions of western culture, but they are outdone by foreigners with misconceptions of Korean culture, and I’m including people who’ve lived there for years. The difference-maker is usually whether or not the person has learned Korean. Having a bilingual Korean spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend is usually not enough: there are still three filters between you and the source.

If you could point to one major change being involved with the Furey Foundation has made, what would it be?
I now have trouble looking at any kind of financial transaction, form of business, or event and not think, ‘okay, how can that raise money for charity?’ That’s a lens that I see through a heck of a lot more these days.

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